"For the 'cognitive' part of cognitive behavioral therapy, we work with patients to identify negative self-defeating thoughts they have," Dr. Kelly Rohan, a SAD specialist at the University of Vermont, said in a statement. "We try to look objectively at the thought and then reframe it into something that's more accurate, less negative, and maybe even a little more positive. The 'behavioral' part of cognitive behavioral therapy tries to teach people new behaviors to engage in when they're feeling depressed, to help them feel better."
Behavioral changes might include having lunch with friends, going out for a walk or volunteering in the community, Rohan said.
"We try to identify activities that are engaging and pleasurable, and we work with patients to try to schedule them into their daily routine," Rohan said.
A preliminary study by Rohan and colleagues compared cognitive behavioral therapy to light therapy. Both were found effective at relieving SAD symptoms over six weeks in the winter.
"We also found that people treated with cognitive behavioral therapy have less depression and less return of SAD the following winter compared to people who were treated with light therapy," Rohan said.